In October 2012, C40 and the City of Copenhagen invited 15 C40 cities to participate in an inaugural workshop of the C40 Green Growth Network. The aim was to share and discuss best practices for themes such as how to work with private sector organisations and green clusters to drive innovation, how to determine the economic rationale for green policies and how to justify such policies by showing their wider economic benefit.
Participants of C40 Green Growth Network Workshop in Copenhagen. (Photo Credit: City of Copenhagen).
An increasing number of cities around the world have taken an interest in pursuing green growth as a way to promote economic development. When I talk with other elected officials, the message is always the same: this increased interest in sustainable solutions is spurred only partly by an awareness of the need to reduce carbon emissions. Cities also see green policies and investments as a tool to recover from the economic crisis and its aftermath, adapt to resource shortages and lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth.
Actions taken by cities do matter: more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and the number is rapidly growing. Most of the world’s wealth is created in the cities – as well as most of its CO2 emissions.
The C40 workshop in Copenhagen increased our understanding of how to make our economies greener. It is my impression that the participating cities are aiming high, having ambitions not only to improve the environment, but also to use their sustainability efforts as a tool for improving the quality of life of their residents and for greening their economies.
My impression is backed up by the findings of the recent CDP Cities/C40 2012 Global Report, which concluded that “the vast majority of city governments report that climate change presents economic opportunities for their cities. Some 82% of all reporting cities identified opportunities”.
The participants at the workshop performed a high level of engagement and had fruitful discussions. London presented their work on developing a low carbon economy, building on the city’s inherent strengths of size (market opportunities), position as leading finance center and home to world-class research institutions. London has undertaken a study to estimate the existing size of London’s low carbon and environmental goods and services sector, and is now looking at how the city can support the growth of this sector, for example, through its procurement policies. With more than 9,000 companies and 160,000 employees engaged in a sector that has sales of nearly £23 billion and a forecasted growth of around 5%, the London case highlights strong potential for the sector to contribute to growth in its economy.
Another case was presented from the City of Bogotá with more focus on the social dimensions of setting ambitious green growth policies. In Bogotá, the government is first and foremostly working to create a better city. Bogotá emphasized that strong political leadership is needed both when promoting public transport and bike infrastructure in the city and when confronting the challenges of limited water resources in the city.
Apart from the huge potential for the private sector, green growth investments make cities more resilient to the effects of climate change and reduce the costs of energy and infrastructure. A recent McKinsey study found that improvements to global resource efficiency could yield $840 billion in annual savings by 2030.
These numbers give elected officials and city planners good arguments for public spending on green initiatives. They also provide a good basis for continued studies into the benefits of green investment and into public-private partnership models that can create new economically, environmentally and socially sustainable solutions – for the benefit of our climate and our citizens.